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GOING ETHNIC

<p>The interior of the Jones Market and Deli, 3389 S. Jones Blvd., is an Eastern European market catering to the Las Vegas Russian and Armenian community.</p>

The interior of the Jones Market and Deli, 3389 S. Jones Blvd., is an Eastern European market catering to the Las Vegas Russian and Armenian community.

<p>BILL HUGHES</p><p>The exterior of Japan Creek Market at 9310 S. Eastern Ave. Japan Creek is just one of a growing number of ethnic supermarkets that have entered the local market as various populations grow.</p>

BILL HUGHES

The exterior of Japan Creek Market at 9310 S. Eastern Ave. Japan Creek is just one of a growing number of ethnic supermarkets that have entered the local market as various populations grow.

<p>A selection of cakes and pastries at Cardenas, a Latino/Hispanic market at 4700 Meadows Lane. The market is one of the many stores that have entered Las Vegas during the past two decades catering to that growing population.</p>

A selection of cakes and pastries at Cardenas, a Latino/Hispanic market at 4700 Meadows Lane. The market is one of the many stores that have entered Las Vegas during the past two decades catering to that growing population.

<p>A selection of meats at the Eastern European Max Market at 8450 W. Sahara Ave.</p>

A selection of meats at the Eastern European Max Market at 8450 W. Sahara Ave.

Most of us are creatures of habit when it comes to food shopping. We’ll go to the nearest Albertsons, Smith’s or Vons to pick up most of what we eat at home, mixing it up with Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Sprouts or a local farmers market if we want to show our truly edgy, independent sides.

But what if we told you there was a whole world of exotic ingredients, sauces and sweets at your doorstep that you will (almost) never see at mainstream markets? Thanks to the increasing diversity of Las Vegas’ population, fresh and packaged foods from around the world can be found at relatively convenient locations throughout the valley (by comparison, the same diversity in Southern California is much farther flung).

Over the last few weeks, we combed greater Las Vegas to check out some of our best ethnic markets. While the list may not be perfect, we think these are some of the strongest spots. Maybe you know one or more of these—or have other favorites—but we’d lay it all on hard eight that you don’t know them all.

Step out of your routine! Check out one or more of these stores on your next shopping trip. Keep in mind, language and cultural differences may limit customer service—but be friendly and open-minded. You never know what you might find.

The World

International Marketplace, 5000 S. Decatur Blvd. 702-889-2888

The “gateway drug” to ethnic markets, International feels like a United Nations-sanctioned Costco, offering an enviable variety of European, Middle Eastern and Asian foodstuffs, housewares and kitchen supply. A little bit of everything. Or in some cases, a lot: daunting selections of dried pastas and Asian noodles, balsamic vinegars and EVOO, Monin syrups, frozen dim sum, phyllo dough, soy sauces, canned fish and meat, British and German cookies and candy, Hawaiian crack seed, Greek taramosalata and Spanish bacalao. The hot counter in front sells whole smoked ducks. They do seem a little weak on Southern Hemisphere countries, however.

Asian: Korean, Pacific Islander, Vietnamese

Greenland Market, 6850 Spring Mountain Road, 702-459-7878

Part of a chain, Greenland is impressively clean and user-friendly for the newbie, a generalist Asian market although rather distinctly Korean-focused. Clean, inviting produce, pre-packaged sushi-grade fish and mixes for Hawaiian poke; beef sliced for shabu-shabu/pho; huge variety of kimchi; drinking vinegars, soups bases, miso pastes and an aisle of seaweed.

Asian: Chinese, Thai, Viet, Filipino

SF Supermarket, 4801 Spring Mountain Road, 702-221-8788

There are several large-scale Chinese markets to choose from on and around Spring Mountain, but SF is arguably the most impressive, with a huge live seafood department (catfish, crabs, mudbugs), butcher with every part of the pig you could possible want (or not), produce including jackfruit, dragon fruit, lychee, galangal, yellow chives, maybe even durian, quail and duck eggs (even balut), two whole aisles of noodle varieties, another aisle of dried mushrooms and fungi, and another aisle almost entirely of fish sauces, extensive frozen dim sum, fish balls, sausages, lots of faux meat products and fresh seitan. Not the most immaculate store, but impressive variety throughout.

Eastern European: Russian/Armenian

Jones Market & Deli, 3389 S. Jones Blvd., 702-367-4345

Vegas also supports several slightly different Eastern European groceries: Jones offers the nicest experience overall, with a big well organized deli counter (Bulgarian cheese, smoked mackerel, basturma, tongue sausage, Moscova ham…), fresh blinze, homemade soups and deli salads, lots of lavash and savory pastries, unusual herbal teas, cheap bulk spices, halvah varieties, paprika sauces, kefir, farmer cheese, uncommon pickles, Eastern European wines, Turkish delight, and bonbons by the piece.

Eastern European

Max Market, 8450 W. Sahara Ave. 702-444-2244

A bit more “hamish” than Jones, Max does have some different strengths, including a good selection of Armenian brandies and spirits like slivovitz, ouzo and arak; organic buckwheat and linden honeys; bulk nuts; uncommon pastries from several fresh bakeries as well as their own fresh cakes. The deli here, overseen by a no-nonsense babushka, has a lot of uncommon charcuterie (Gypsy bacon!) and fresh sturgeon on weekends.

Though not as full service as the other Eastern European markets, Euro Delicacies (7835 S. Rainbow Blvd., 702-740-0494), run by “ex-Yugoslavians” we’re told, also has a few distinctions, such as cold kiseli kupus (soured cabbage), watermelon and rose petal preserves, tofu pates, and large sheets of wafer biscuits.

Filipino

Seafood City, 3890 S. Maryland Parkway, 702-851-0021, www.seafoodcity.com

Also one of a large chain, the bright, clean Seafood City experience starts with an entry court featuring tempting Jollibee fried chicken and Red Ribbon bake shop, so don’t come too hungry! Good produce (yes, ube), soursop, kalamansi and lychee nectars, and other rarities like coconut vinegar, macapuno and mung beans in syrup, lots of pancit, longanisa, tocino and fun snacks. As the name implies, fresh whole fish are abundant here (which they will fry for you, for free), alongside a very full-service butcher.

Indian

Rani’s World Foods, 4505 W. Sahara Ave., 702-522-7744, www.ranisworldfoods.com

Like the larger Asian stores, Rani’s promotes itself as multi-ethnic, but really, the focus here is on the Indian sub-continent, and impressively so. You’ll find many varieties of rice and flour, more curries, pickles and relishes than you thought possible, fresh paneer, and even an aisle of British specialties (big boxes of PG Tips tea!). They have a hot counter that is entirely vegetarian , and also sell online.

Japanese

Japan Creek Market, 9310 S. Eastern Ave., 702-538-9903

A small but immaculate boutique grocery with picture-perfect produce (kaiware, daikon, enoki, gobo root) bakery and bento boxes, fresh roe and sushi fish, frozen sukiyaki meat, organic soba, fukaki and onigiri varieties, Japanese curry, snacks and most importantly, green tea KitKat bars.

While it isn’t’t quite as pretty as Japan Creek, Nakata Market of Japan, (2350 S. Rainbow Blvd., 702-257-1414 nakatamarket.com) is more established and slightly larger, with more gifts and sundry. For those on the West/North side of town, a perfectly good option.

Laotian/Thai

Laos Market, 629 Las Vegas Blvd. N., 702-366-0881

On the funkier side, this small, dense space north of downtown hides an impressive number of oddities including fresh lemongrass, rambutan, huge papaya, pickled mangoes and peppercorns, durian chips, huge selections of shrimp and crab pastes, Srirachas, soup bases, and fresh salads. A hardcore foodie’s Shangri-la.

Mediterranean

Zaytoon Mediterranean Market & Kabob, 3655 S. Durango Drive, 702-685-1875, zaytoonlasvegas.com

At the clean and well-organized Zaytoon, you’ll find a huge selection of cheap dry spices, fresh herbs, bulk nuts, unusual cooking and flavoring oils (mustard, juniper), five kinds of fresh feta, Persian ice cream flavors from LA’s Mashti Malone, and an attached juice bar and café.

Mexican

Cardenas, 4700 Meadows Lane, 702-835-8800 www.cardenasmarkets.com

There are several sizable Latino/Hispanic markets to choose from in Vegas (even three of this large chain), but the Cardenas at Decatur and Meadows offers such an impressive experience, it towers over all others con mucho gusto. Huge fresh tortilla bakery (as well as a separate panaderia with incredible party cakes), lots of fresh salsas and ceviches, big butcher and fresh cheeses department, fresh fruit smoothie counter, solid produce section and a sit-down café that rivals many local cocinas. Did we mention all the piñatas? Que rico!

Polish

Polish Deli, 5900 W. Charleston Blvd., 702-259-2008

Leave it to the no-nonsense Poles to give their store as direct and unambiguous a name as possible. While a cursory glance might see a lot of crossover between this and the Russian/Eastern European markets, Polish Deli offers a wider variety of frozen pierogi and fresh kielbasas, bacon roll, other sausages and cheeses, chruscik, sweets, teas. Small and sensible. CL